HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Pros and Cons of Employee Surveys

Does your organization regularly conduct employee surveys? Why or why not?


For many organizations, conducting surveys is a matter of course. Employee engagement surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, surveys of departing employees, and more are all quite common. But for other organizations, this isn’t something that’s regularly implemented.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using employee surveys.

Pros of Using Employee Surveys

Here are some reasons employee surveys are quite popular:

  • They can provide insights into employee needs, frustrations, and potential ways to improve the organization. This could even result in a reduction in turnover if handled well.
  • Surveys represent a fairly low-cost and straightforward way of gaining insights into how employees feel about a given topic.
  • Surveys can be customized to address nearly any issue the organization wants input on.
  • They can be a forum for employees to give suggestions they wouldn’t otherwise have an outlet for.
  • Surveys may allow employers to see problems they may have otherwise missed and act on them sooner.
  • An anonymous survey could be a place for employees to bring up issues they would otherwise be afraid to speak out on for fear of repercussions.
  • Surveys can allow for comparison of employee sentiment about a given topic over time.
  • Surveys can get input very quickly.

Cons of Using Employee Surveys

There are, of course, also potential drawbacks to using employee surveys. Here are a few:

  • There’s no guarantee of honest answers, even with anonymity, which means the data may not be as useful as you would like. Some employees may not trust that their answers will be anonymous.
  • Conducting surveys can risk damage to employee morale if the organization doesn’t appear to take the feedback seriously. Simply disseminating the survey creates the expectation that the employer will take the feedback into account. If nothing changes, employees may become further dissatisfied.
  • Leading questions or poorly worded questions can lead to incorrect interpretations of the results, rendering surveys less useful.
  • There are administrative burdens associated with creating, delivering, and analyzing surveys. This costs time and money. If there’s a low response rate, it could cost even more in terms of attempting to get people to complete the survey.
  • If not everyone completes the survey, the results may be skewed.
  • Because surveys are not conducted too frequently, the feedback is more likely to be dated.
  • Completing surveys takes employees away from other productive tasks. This may be small, but the time adds up if you ask all employees to do so. There may also be time lost to discussion about the surveys.
  • A survey may bring negative issues to the forefront, causing employees to be even more frustrated if they already were.

What is your organization’s take on employee surveys? Have you always done them? Are you planning to start? Or do you find them not a useful source of employee input?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

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